All posts by Paul Tchir

A Week+ Worth of Updates

Oldest Olympians will be travelling with limited internet connectivity for the next week so, rather than miss an update, we have decided to post a blog entry today that will cover one Olympian for every day that we suspect we will be absent (February 21–29).

Tomorrow, Czech canoeist Růžena Košťálová, born February 21, 1924, will turn 100! Košťálová was one half of the silver medal-winning Czechoslovakian team in the Kayak Doubles, 500 metres event at the 1948 World Championships and represented the country at that year’s Olympic Games in the Kayak Singles, 500 metres. Although she won her heat in the opening round, she finished fifth in the final. Having already won 12 national titles in the sport, she retired from active competition shortly thereafter and eventually moved to Switzerland with her family in 1968. While there are sources that claim that she died in 2013, contact with her son confirms that she was still alive at the end of last year as the oldest living Olympian to have represented Czechoslovakia and the oldest living Olympic canoeist.

The next day, Egyptian rower Wagih El-Attar, born February 22, 1928, will turn 96! El-Attar represented his country in the coxed fours rowing event at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where Egypt was eliminated in the round one repêchage. He had better luck at the 1955 Mediterranean Games, where he captured bronze in the coxed pairs. He now lives in Orange Country, California as the oldest living Egyptian Olympian.

Then, (West) German equestrian Harry Boldt, born February 23, 1930, will turn 94! Boldt competed in two editions of the Olympic dressage competition, representing unified Germany in 1964 in Tokyo and West Germany in 1976 in Montreal. Both times, he earned gold in the team competition and silver individually. At the World Championships, he earned silver individually in 1966 and gold with the team in 1966 and 1978, as well as team silver in 1970. He collected an additional 11 medals, five of them gold, at the European Championships between 1963 and 1979, and retired in 1980. He then served as a coach until his 1996 retirement and is now the oldest living German Olympic champion.

As there are no more milestone birthdays during this period, we wanted to take some time to highlight some particularly successful and well-known Olympians who have turned 90 within the past year. First, British sprinter Heather Armitage, born March 17, 1933, is nearing her 91st birthday. Armitage represented her country in five track events across two editions of the Games – 1952 and 1956 – and took bronze and silver in the 4×100 metres relays those years respectively. She also took gold in the 100 metres at the 1958 European Championships and won four medals at the Mediterranean Games from 1954 through 1958.

Next we have American modern pentathlete Jack Daniels, born April 26, 1933. Daniels represented his country in two editions of the Olympic modern pentathlon tournament – 1956 and 1960 – taking silver and bronze with the team in those years respectively. He was national champion individually in 1958 and had a career with the United States Army, but later became well-known athletics coach after receiving his doctoral degree in exercise physiology.

Another American double Olympic medalist is ice hockey player John Mayasich, born May 22, 1933. Mayasich took silver and gold in the tournaments at the 1956 and 1960 Winter Olympics respectively. He also competed at six editions of the World Championships between 1957 and 1969 and was a top player with the Minnesota Golden Gophers during his college days. He was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 1997.

Turning to Finland, cross-country skier Toini Pöysti, born July 1, 1933, took bronze medals in the 3×5 kilometers relay in 1960 and 1964. Individually, she never placed lower than sixth in her other three events, and she won a silver medal in the relay at the 1958 World Championships. She also competed at the Worlds in 1962 and 1966 and captured her only national title in 1960, in the 10 kilometers.

Moving to Italy, we have Abdon Pamich, born October 3, 1933, who competed in five consecutive editions of the 50 kilometer race walk from 1956 through 1972. He won the event in 1964 and also took bronze in 1960, just missing a third medal by placing fourth in 1956. He also took the title at the Mediterranean Games in 1955, 1963, and 1971, as well as at the European Championships in 1962 and 1966, coming in second in 1958. He was a 40-time national champion across various distances and later worked as a sports psychologist and coach.

Finally, at the beginning of this year, American track athlete Charlie Jenkins, born January 7, 1934, turned 90. Jenkins represented his country in the 400 metres and 4×400 metres relay at the 1956 Melbourne Games and won gold in both events. He was the national champion in the 400 metres in 1955 and later worked as a coach, with his son Chip winning gold in the relay in 1992.

The tables will not be updated during our absence, but we look forward to returning on March 1 to continue cover the Oldest Olympians! We hope that you will join us!

More Updates to Oldest Olympian Titleholders

(Ásmundur Bjarnason)

Oldest Olympians is saddened to learn of the deaths of two more of the Oldest Olympian titleholders. The first, Icelandic track and field athlete Ásmundur Bjarnason, born February 17, 1927, died February 1 at the age of 96. Ásmundur represented his nation at the 1948 London Olympics, where he was eliminated in round one of the 4×100 metres relay. He made a second Olympic appearance in 1952, where he was eliminated in the opening rounds of the 100 and 200 metres events, as well as the 4×100 metres relay. He also placed fifth in the 200 metres at the 1950 European Championships. Nationally, he won the Icelandic pentathlon title in 1947, the 100 metres crown in 1954, and the 200 metres championship in 1954 and 1955. At the time of his death, Ásmundur was the oldest living Icelandic Olympian. That distinction now goes to Jakobína Jakobsdóttir, born November 21, 1932, who represented her country in three alpine skiing events at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Games.

(Cees Koch)

Next, Dutch canoeist Cees Koch, born December 30, 1925, died February 13 at the age of 98. Koch represented his country in three events across two editions of the Games, 1948 and 1952, with a best finish of sixth in the K-2 10,000 in 1948. He also competed at the 1954 World Championships and was a multiple national champion. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living Dutch Olympian, given that we will be removing Dutch swimmer Lies Bonnier, born July 8, 1925, from our list, as we last heard from her in 2012. This means that footballer Kees Rijvers, born May 27, 1926, who took part in the tournament at the 1948 London Games, is now the oldest living Dutch Olympian.

(Neville Howell)

Finally, we mentioned a few days ago that Australian rower Garth Manton, born December 16, 1929, died February 1 at the age of 94 as the oldest living Australian Olympic medalist. That distinction now goes to his teammate in the eights, Neville Howell, who was born one day later on December 17, 1929.

Charles Coste and Wu Chengzhang

Today we have two Olympians turning 100, so we wanted to celebrate them both in a single blog entry, as were unable to choose between the two of them!

First up is French cyclist Charles Coste. Coste’s brief amateur career after World War II was quite successful, beginning with his national title in the individual pursuit in 1947. In 1948 he joined Serge Blusson, Fernand Decanali, and Pierre Adam in winning a gold medal in the team pursuit, 4,000 metres event at that year’s London Olympics, and followed that up with an individual pursuit bronze at the World Championships later that year. He then raced as a professional for a decade, notching up several major victories and competing in many more of Europe’s biggest tours. He is the oldest living French Olympic medalist, the oldest living Olympic cyclist, and the last surviving member of his gold medal-winning team.

Next is Wu Chengzhang, the oldest living Chinese Olympian and Olympic basketball player! A lifelong student of physical education, Wu was a member of the Chinese basketball squad that competed at the 1948 London Games and ranked 18th overall out of 23 teams. Following the end of his competitive career, he worked as a basketball coach and trainer. His son, Wu Xinshui, also practiced the sport and in 1999 was voted one of the best all-time Chinese players.

Nancy Mackay

Oldest Olympians is saddened to learn that Canadian track athlete Nancy Mackay, born April 6, 1922, died January 4 at the age of 101. Mackay represented her country in the 4×100 metres relay at the 1948 London Games, where she took home a bronze medal. Domestically, she won six national titles between 1936 and 1941 and was invited to the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were ultimately cancelled. From 1944 through 1947 she took three national titles in the United States and made the London Olympics her final international competition.

What makes this worth mentioning in a blog entry is that we were informed in 2018 that an author had contacted a nursing home in Whitby, Ontario where she had been a resident and was informed that she had died back in 2016 and that no public notice had been given. Thus, we had listed her as deceased previously and wanted to clear up any confusion from our previous posts, which seemed to be based in solid information. Additionally, at the time of her death, she would have been the oldest living Canadian Olympic medalist, meaning that gold medal-winning equestrian Tom Gayford, born November 21, 1928, has only held that title since the beginning of the month, despite earlier posts.

(William de Rham)

Additionally, we mentioned two days ago that track athlete Karl Volkmer, born March 20, 1922, died December 19, 2023 at the age of 101, coincidentally living one day longer than Mackay, as the oldest living Swiss Olympian. As an update, that distinction now goes to equestrian William de Rham, born August 22, 1922.

Even More Changes to Oldest Olympian Titleholders

Oldest Olympians is saddened to learn that two more of the oldest Olympian titleholders have died, meaning that we need to update our tables once again. Earlier this month, we featured field hockey player Ajit Singh Gill, born March 21, 1928, who died January 16 at the age of 95. Most news sources listed him as Singapore’s oldest Olympian, but we believed that weightlifter Thong Saw Pak, born July 20, 1924, held that title, as well as that of the oldest living Olympic weightlifter.

(Thong Saw Pak)

Thong represented Singapore in the lightweight division at the 1952 Helsinki Games because his home country of Malaya did not yet have a recognized national Olympic committee. He had to withdraw due to a back strain, but had earlier taken silver at the 1950 British Empire Games. He retired from active competition after the Olympics and received a scholarship to study physics in the United Kingdom. After earning his PhD, he returned to teach at the University of Malaya.

(Carlos Caballero, pictured at El Heraldo)

Research by Connor Mah, however, has determined that he died in the second half of the 2010s, possibly in the United Kingdom, although we have yet to confirm that. Regardless, as he is definitely deceased, this means that Singh Gill was the oldest living Olympian to have represented Singapore at the time of his death. That title now goes to another member of Singh Gill’s hockey squad, Richard Schoon, born June 23, 1928. We believe that the oldest living weightlifter, meanwhile, is Carlos Caballero, born February 15, 1927, who represented Colombia in the middleweight division in 1956 and 1960.

(Georgios Darivas, pictured in his obituary at Sport24)

More recently, Oldest Olympians was saddened to learn that Greek footballer Georgios Darivas, born March 12, 1926, died January 15 at the age of 97. Darivas represented his country in the tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where Greece was eliminated in the qualifying round. He had better luck at the 1951 Mediterranean Games, where he took home a gold medal. He had a successful domestic career with Olympiacos from 1946 through 1958 and later coached them to two Greek Cups and a Greek top-league title in the 1970s.

(Kees Rijvers)

At the time of his death, Darivas was both the oldest living Greek Olympian and the oldest living Olympic footballer. The holder of the former title is now Stelios Bonas, born July 1, 1929, who represented Greece in the Sharpie class sailing tournament at the 1956 Melbourne Games and was still competing as of 2023. The latter distinction now goes to Kees Rijvers, born May 27, 1926, who represented the Netherlands in the football tournament at the 1948 London Games.

Finally, as an update, we had listed German fencer Günter Stratmann, born January 8, 1931, as among the Olympians that we had last heard being alive in 2012. Unfortunately, we have learned from his son Jörg, also a fencing Olympian, that we were incorrect in this: Günter actually died September 9, 2010 at the age of 79.

Last Updates to Olympic Mysteries from 2023

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover the last updates on Olympic mysteries from 2023. Before that, however, we should mention a final 2023 Olympic missing link: Victor Denis, born October 23, 1900, who represented Belgium in two editions of the Olympic rowing tournament. In 1924, he was eliminated in the round one repêchage of the coxed fours and was also a reserve with the eights, although he did not compete in that event. In 1928, however, he did take part in the eights, although he again exited after the round one repêchage. He had much better luck at the European Rowing Championships, taking bronze in the double sculls in 1920 and the coxed fours in 1924. A year of death of 1989 was added to his English Wikipedia page, but with no source.

(Pierre Clergerie)

Returning to the main topic, we first wanted to address two rowers with the French eights from the 1928 Amsterdam Games: Marius and Joseph Berthet. At the time that we last covered them, we did not even know how (or if) they were related, let alone any other biographical data. Thanks to research by Rob Gilmore, however, we now know that they were brothers: Joseph was born June 24, 1900 and died July 14, 1980, while Marius was born December 29, 1903 and died February 22, 1987. Gilmore also helped Connor Mah research another rower, Pierre Clergerie, who took part in the eights at the 1948 London Games. Clergerie was born April 1, 1919, but remains somewhat of an Olympic mystery as we do not know when (or even if) he died.

Turning to Japan, in an earlier post we mentioned three Japanese wrestlers who took part in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics about whom we knew nothing: Yoshio Kono, Eitaro Suzuki, and Shuichi Yoshida. Now, thanks to Gilmore and Mah, we know that Suzuki was born on April 20, 1899 and died in May 1979. Yoshida and Kono, meanwhile, were born c. 1906 and c. 1909 respectively, although we still do not have exact dates.

(Alfons Oswald)

Finally, there are two individuals that we discussed more recently about whom we have more information. First we have Svatopluk Skýva, who represented Czechoslovakia in sabre fencing as both an individual and with the team at the 1948 London Olympics. In both events, he was eliminated in the quarter-finals. He was a national sabre champion, a professor at the Prague Conservatory, a theatre producer, and an author, but now thanks to Mah and Gilmore we know that he was born January 13, 1910 and died in December 1979. Secondly, Alfons Oswald, who represented Switzerland in the Firefly sailing class at the London Games and placed 10th, was born May 4, 1914, giving us a date of birth that we were lacking previously.

Two More Changes to Oldest Olympian Titleholders

(Jack Whitford)

Earlier this month, we were planning on featuring British gymnast Jack Whitford, born January 3, 1924, on his 100th birthday. Whitford competed in the gymnastics tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where he finished 21st with the British team and had a best individual finish of joint-39th in the pommeled horse. This was the only Olympic appearance for the four-time British champion, but his half-brother Arthur competed in the same sport in 1928 and his wife Pat Evans (also among the oldest living Olympians prior to her death in 2020) was part of the British women’s team in 1948.

(Domini Lawrence)

In addition to turning 100, we also believed that Whitford was the oldest living British Olympian. We discovered, however, that he actually died on June 5, 2023, at the age of 99. Thus we now believe that equestrian Domini Lawrence, born May 8, 1925, who was already the oldest living Olympian to have competed at the 1972 Munich Games, is now the holder of that title. Lawrence represented Great Britain in two Olympic dressage tournaments: in 1968 she was fifth with the team and 11th individually, while in 1972 she was 10th with the team and 33rd individually. She later became a distinguished judge with the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, serving until her retirement in 1998.

(Carl-Erik Asplund)

Additionally, oldest Olympians is saddened to learn that Swedish speed skater Carl-Erik Asplund, born September 14, 1923, died January 8 at the age of 100. Asplund took part in three events at the 1952 Oslo Games, winning bronze in the 10,000 metres, just missing the podium at fourth in the 1,500 metres, and coming in sixth in the 5,000 metres. Although he had some success at the European and World Championships, in addition to his nine national titles, his career was limited to the first half of the 1950s.

At the time of his death, Asplund was both the oldest living Swedish Olympian and the oldest living Olympic speed skater. The former title now goes to equestrian Maud von Rosen, born December 24, 1925, who won a bronze medal in team dressage at the 1972 Munich Games. The latter is now held by Yury Sergeyev, born July 16, 1925, who represented the Soviet Union in the 500 metres event at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Olympics and placed fourth. The only other Olympian over the age of 90 to have won a speed skating medal is Norwegian Knut Johannesen, born November 6, 1933, who has five of them – two gold, two silver, and one bronze – across three editions, 1956-1964.

Final 2023 Updates to Oldest Olympian Titleholders

As 2023 has come to end we have, as usual, several blog posts to wrap the year up. Today we wanted to focus on the last few Oldest Olympian titleholders who died in the previous year and their successors.

(Franz Zigon, pictured at OÖLSV)

First, we learned that Austrian water polo player Franz Zigon, born March 9, 1924, died back in July at the age of 99. Zigon represented Austria as a member of its water polo delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Games, where the nation was eliminated in the preliminary round. Zigon had also qualified for the 1948 London Olympics, but Austria did not ultimately send its team. At home he was a multiple national champion, despite having had his career interrupted by World War II, where he was injured serving in the infantry. He retired in 1960, but eventually returned to the pool to compete at the masters’ level, which continued to do into his 90s. By career he was a radio technician and, at the time of his death, he was the oldest living Austrian Olympian and Olympic water polo player. His successor in the former category is Egon Schöpf, born October 16, 1925, who competed in three alpine skiing events across two editions of the Games: 1948 and 1952. For the latter title, the new holder is Edson Perri, born June 5, 1928, who represented Brazil in the tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

(Ingrid Wigernæs)

Next, Norwegian cross-country skier Ingrid Wigernæs, born February 22, 1928, died December 2 at the age of 95. Wigernæs took part in three cross-country skiing events across two editions of the Winter Olympics, finishing 27th in the 10 km in 1956 and joint-15th and 12th in the 5 and 10 km events respectively in 1964. She won several national titles over the course of her career, but her biggest international success came at the 1966 World Championships, where she was a member of the 3×5 km relay squad that took silver. She later turned to coaching, with her most notable success in that realm coming from her mentorship over the 3×5 km relay team that took gold at the 1968 Grenoble Games. Wigernæs was the oldest living Norwegian Olympian and Olympian to have competed at the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics at the time of her death. The oldest living Norwegian Olympian is now Dagny Jørgensen, born March 22, 1929, who took part in two alpine skiing events at the 1952 Oslo Games. The oldest survivor of the 1964 Innsbruck Games, meanwhile, is Argentina’s Héctor Tomasi, born July 5, 1928, who also competed in 1948 and 1952.

(Jo Bernardo)

Then, French swimmer Jo Bernardo, born May 31, 1929, died December 6 at the age of 94. Bernardo represented his country at two editions of the Games, in 1948 and 1952, winning bronze medals in the 4×200 metres relay both times. He also set a world record in this event in 1951, and captured a gold and silver medal in it at the 1951 Mediterranean Games and 1950 European Championships respectively. Moreover, he earned bronze in the 1,500 metres competition at the latter tournament. He retired after the 1954 season and later worked as a sports administrator. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living Olympic swimming medalist, a title that now goes to Australian Nancy Lyons, born April 12, 1930, who won a silver medal in the 200 metres breaststroke at the 1948 London Games and also competed in that event in 1952.

(Norman Shutt, from a video at Youtube)

Finally, we were informed by a family member that British biathlete and cross-country skier Norman Shutt, born November 9, 1929, died back on February 12, 2022 at the age of 92. Shutt was 20th in the 20 kilometers biathlon and 52nd in the 15 kilometers cross-country skiing event at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics. By career, he served in both the military and the police force and, at the time of his death, he was the oldest living Olympic biathlete. Only recently did we have another biathlete turn 90: Larry Damon, born December 8, 1933, who represented the United States in that sport in 1960, and in cross-country skiing in 1956, 1964, and 1968.

Two Australian Field Hockey Olympians

(Dennis Kemp, pictured at Hockey Australia)

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover two Australian field hockey Olympians who died in November: Dennis Kemp and Mike Craig. Kemp, born July 28, 1931, represented his country in the tournament at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where the Australians placed fifth. A member of the Perth Hockey Club, he had made his début with the national squad in 1954 and would remain active in the sport as either a player or coach through 1980. He was also selected for the 1960 Rome Games, but was unable to attend. He died November 17 at the age of 92.

(Mike Craig, pictured at Hockey Australia)

Mike Craig, born February 7, 1931, was able to make the trip, however, where Australia ranked sixth. Outside of his playing career, he was known for his contributions to the administrative side of the sport and was awarded several times for his work in this field. He died November 20, also at the age of 92.

We also wanted to use this opportunity to mention the death of an Olympian that occurred nearly two years ago. Up until recently, we listed Enrique Lucca, born December 23, 1923, as the oldest living Venezuelan Olympian. Lucca represented his country in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres sport shooting event at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where he finished 25th. He had better luck at the 1963 Pan American Games, where he won a bronze medal in the team version of that competition. We had been told by his son that he was still alive in August 2021, and were looking forward to his 100th birthday later this year. Some of his other relatives, however, informed us that Lucca actually died one month after we learned that he was alive, on September 15, 2021.

Finally, we wanted to end this blog with an Olympic mystery related to its main topic: field hockey. Daiji Kurauchi, born in 1913, represented Japan in the field hockey tournament at the 1936 Berlin Games, where his country placed joint-fifth with Afghanistan. We were able to locate a report about an individual by this name who died January 19, 1953 at the age of 41, which would be appropriate for the Olympian if the year of birth was just an estimate. This individual is listed as being a liquor executive by occupation, however, and thus we cannot tie him definitively to the Olympian.

Several Updates to Oldest Olympian Titleholders

Yesterday we noted that sport shooter Khalif Ayyat, born December 1, 1929, died September 5, 2022, at the age of 92 as the oldest living Jordanian Olympian and oldest survivor of the 1980 Moscow Games. We know of no other Jordanian Olympians who are alive over the age of 90, but Polish equestrian Wanda Wąsowska, born June 28, 1931, is now the oldest survivor of the Moscow Olympics. In addition to this, we have a few other titleholders that have died recently that we want to cover in this blog.

(José Pérez)

First, we had listed sailor Sergio González, born July 3, 1925, as the oldest living Mexican Olympian for some time. Research by Connor Mah, however, uncovered the fact that he died September 3, 2017, and thus never held the title. According to our lists, therefore, José Pérez, born October 10, 1928, who represented his country in three consecutive editions of the modern pentathlon (1952-1960), and fencing at latter edition, would be the oldest living Mexican Olympian. An anonymous edit to Wikipedia, however, claims that he died in 2022, although we have not been able to confirm this. If it were true, rower Roberto Retolaza, born January 12, 1930, who took part in the Games in 1960 and 1968, would be the oldest living Mexican Olympian.

(María del Carmen Vall)

Next, we had alpine skier Ramón Blanco, born February 6, 1925, who took part in the slalom at the 1948 St. Moritz Games, as the oldest living Spanish Olympian. Again, however, Connor Mah discovered that Blanco died in September of 2021. This makes fencer María del Carmen Vall, born June 17, 1926, the oldest living Spanish Olympian to the best of our knowledge. We last heard from her on her 90th birthday.

(Max Bolkart)

We were also saddened to learn that French ski jumper André Monnier, born June 26, 1926, died October 8 at the age of 97. Monnier represented his nation at both the 1952 and 1956 Winter Olympics, finishing joint-36th and joint-46th respectively. He was more successful in his home country, winning several national championships, and later helped carry the Olympic torch to Grenoble when the Winter Games came there in 1968. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living Olympic ski jumper, and we thought that distinction would go to his compatriot Régis Rey, born April 8, 1929, who competed in the same events. Rey, however, died April 6, 2022. Thus we now believe that Max Bolkart, born July 29, 1932, who represented Germany at the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Winter Games, is now the oldest living Olympic ski jumper.

(Tony Genato, pictured at the Tiebreaker Times)

Finally, basketball player Tony Genato, born June 9, 1929, died November 22 at the age of 94. Genato took part in the basketball tournaments at the 1952 and 1956 Summer Games, where his country was eliminated in round one and the quarterfinals respectively. He had much better luck in 1954, when his team won gold at the Asian Games and bronze at the World Championships. He retired in 1959 and later worked as a basketball coach. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living Olympian to have represented the Philippines. That title now goes to Horacio Miranda, born September 20, 1931, who represented his country three editions of the rapid-fire pistol, 25 metres shooting event from 1960-1968.